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Valentine's Special: Love in games

The best examples of digital romance

Since it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, we thought we'd talk about video games and their portrayal of love, sex and relationships. Mostly it's about as gentle and poignant as Miss Piggy clubbing Kermit across the head in The Muppets, but some games get it right.

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Fahrenheit, for example. This adventure game was often a victim of its mad ambition, but the relationships between the characters was often surprisingly complex. For instance, the scene where Lucas' ex-girlfriend Tiffany comes to his flat to collect the last of her stuff. If you make the right choices - give her some gin, play her a song on the guitar - the pair are struck with nostalgia and end up having passionate, digital sex. Okay, so jerking the analogue stick back and forth to 'thrust' is hardly romantic, but the scene is subtle and tastefully directed.

Then there's the Final Fantasy series. There's no rufty, but there's plenty of romance. Remember the love triangle between Cloud, Aeris and Tifa in Final Fantasy VII? And Squall's awkward pining for Rinoa in VIII? Sweet, memorable relationships that were a successful combination of good writing and character development - not to mention the fact that you'd grown attached to the characters after forty hours of fighting together.

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Okami also features a relationship bubbling with warmth; Susano and Kushi. At the beginning of the game Susano is a drunken, useless lout, but when eight-headed dragon Orochi kidnaps her he sobers up and embarks on a fearless quest to rescue her, all because he loves her. It's enough to make you want to sick up your own pelvis, but undeniably sweet. If your heart didn't swell when they got together you are a cold, remorseless robot.

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And sometimes you get to be part of the relationship yourself. In unfairly ignored Japanese RPG Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, there are a number of girls you can actually convince to become your girlfriend by forming 'social links'. This means pandering to their every whim, buying them gifts and liking the same things as them. For example, the nameless hero can join one of his school's sports teams, and the coach will become interested in you if you perform well.

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And let's not forget Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Nathan and Elena's relationship is different from the others in that they never express themselves. But you can tell the attraction's there. There are some brilliantly awkward moments of sexual tension in the game's cut-scenes and you're always expecting them to stop adventuring and rip each others' clothes off. Of course, they never do, which makes it all the more complex. Their banter is stolen from a hundred and one Hollywood films (Star Wars, Romancing The Stone, Indiana Jones) but it's expertly scripted and acted.

And the list goes on. Snake and Meryl from Metal Gear are clearly attracted to each other, Devil May Cry's Dante and Lady have a sexually-charged relationship and Leon and Ada from Resident Evil have had a weird 'thing' going on across two games.

Can you think of any more? Who are your favourite gaming couples?

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